Michael Pineda, as every single baseball fan on Twitter Thursday night noticed, had some sort of brown goop on his hand during the first few innings of the Yankees eventual 4-1 win over the Red Sox in the Bronx. Angry Red Sox fans lobbed around hollow “cheating” accusations. The NESN booth, Jerry Remy in particular, wondered how Pineda was allowed to continue with whatever substance (Internet said pine tar; Pineda said dirt) was on his palm.
The reaction from the online peanut gallery and the players themselves couldn’t be in starker contrast. Here’s what The Daily News quoted David Ortiz saying after the game:
“Everybody uses pine tar,” he said. “It’s no big deal.”
As we know two Red Sox pitchers — Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester — had their own issue with potentially illegal foreign substances last year, so it probably wasn’t in the best interest for the Boston players or staff to moan to the umpires about Pineda. Given that every team is now employing some sort of replay expert with video access upstairs, the Boston dugout probably had a solid idea Pineda had something on his hand, yet John Farrell chose to stay mum which says a lot about how its looked at inside the game.
There does seem to be a difference between a pitcher using something like rosin — as Lester claimed was in his glove during the World Series — or pine tar to get a better grip, compared to the Eddie Harris collection of Bardol, Crisco and Vagisil used to “load” up a ball. While Internet sleuths bandied about the word “cheating” most analysts and ex-pros used the catch-all “unwritten rules” designation for Pineda’s handiwork.
Pineda using a little pine tar isn’t exactly Gaylord Perry smearing Vaseline all over the ball or Joe Niekro getting caught with an emery board, is it?
If anything, this incident from Thursday night shows that in the age of Twitter, HD screencaps and everything else provided in the digital era, if pitchers are going to tacitly break the letter of the law, they should all be a little more discreet about it. If the players aren’t outraged, the fans probably shouldn’t be either. Chances are somebody on your favorite team is doing the exact same thing as Pineda.